NINETEENTH ROUND OF GENEVA INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSIONS CONCLUDES
29 March 2012
The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions gave a press conference this afternoon at the end of the nineteenth round of the Discussions.
PHILIPPE LEFORT, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, reading out the joint press communiqué, said that in Working Group I the participants reviewed the security situation on the ground and welcomed the relatively stable environment, despite an increase of the number of violent incidents along the Inguri river. The value of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms in ensuring continued stability was reiterated by all participants. The participants discussed Non-Use of Force and International Security Arrangements. A new contribution was tabled in the context of the discussion on non-use of force commitments by participants. Deliberations would be resumed in the next round. The Co-Chairs encouraged participants to engage in confidence-building, based on positive practice of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms. The humanitarian situation was reviewed in Working Group II, focusing on the needs and challenges of internally displaced persons and vulnerable populations. In addition, specific issues such as missing persons, education and cultural heritage preservation were discussed. In an information session, participants were given the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the legal framework governing the preservation of cultural heritage. Participants were updated on various water-related projects led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and financed by the European Union. The participants agreed to hold their next session on 7 and 8 June 2012.
ANTTI TURUNEN, United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions and the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, said that all participants reconfirmed their commitment to the Geneva process as a forum where all participants could discuss the issues related to the conflict. The working atmosphere had been improving, with testimony to that during today’s meeting; some pragmatic signals of readiness to cooperate were given. During the period following the last round of talks in December, the security situation on the ground, especially in the Inguri river neighbourhood, had unfortunately somewhat deteriorated. Overall, although they could say that it was stable and relatively calm, there had been some serious incidents. It was hoped that this was not becoming a new trend which may lead to an escalation of tensions on the ground. Mr. Turunen appealed to all relevant authorities to investigate these incidents and prosecute perpetrators. On a positive note, as the Chair of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms in Gali, he had noted that there was now a greater interest to start discussing possible forms of cooperation and they were continuing consultations to that effect. Mr. Turunen appealed to all the participants that they really look into these ways and their participation was needed right from the start. He believed that the pragmatic steps that could hopefully be taken would have a positive impact on the political level and that the two levels of the process were mutually reinforcing.
PADRAIG MURPHY, Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus, characterized the security situation in the area that they were concerned with as stable, although they had certain concerns. As far as the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism in South Ossetia was concerned, they operated on the principle that local residents should not be detained for crossing the administrative boundary line, and if detained they should be released immediately. Mr. Murphy was pleased to note that that informal agreement on this had been respected by the parties over the last three months. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe was very particularly concerned about the people on the ground, the ordinary people who were affected by these conflicts. They were particularly concerned about the provision of water in South Ossetia and across the boundary line. They had concluded a project in the Zankari dam and they were working on a set of new projects which would shortly be put in place. Overall, despite difficulties, they considered the situation stable, and as far as the situation of the people on the ground was concerned, they noted a number of improvements.
Question from the Press
The Chairpersons were asked whether the conversations should continue indefinitely, or were they working towards a particular object.
Response from the Co-Chairperson
PHILIPPE LEFORT, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, said that the objective was finding a solution to the conflict, which obviously would not come naturally from the contradictory and opposite positions held by the parties. Several conditions were involved which included the step-by-step restoration of ordinary life by the populations affected by the conflict, and establishment of a security system based on the non-use of force, as well as international security arrangements which would make it possible to guarantee such a system. The discussions were moving ahead slowly, sometimes with great difficulty. Of course after each meeting the results were perhaps not really spectacular, but if the situation today was compared with what was seen right after the conflict there had undeniably been progress. The discussion process continued, and without providing examples, it was bringing about results. Furthermore there were now functioning communication platforms, which enabled the process to be an active one.